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Communications Government Republicans Social Networks The Media Twitter Politics

How Donald Trump Uses Twitter As a Weapon of Fear 532

HughPickens.com writes: Alexander Burns and Maggie Haberman write in the NYT that with his enormous online platform of six million followers, Donald Trump has used Twitter to badger and humiliate those who have dared cross him during the presidential race, latching on to their vulnerabilities, mocking their physical characteristics, personality quirks and, sometimes, their professional setbacks. Trump has made statements that have later been exposed as false or deceptive — only after they have ricocheted across the Internet. For example, Cheri Jacobus, a Republican political strategist, did not think she had done anything out of the ordinary: On a cable television show, she criticized Donald J. Trump for skipping a debate in Iowa in late January and described him as a "bad debater." Trump took to Twitter, repeatedly branding Jacobus as a disappointed job seeker who had begged to work for his campaign and had been rejected. "We said no and she went hostile," Trump wrote. "A real dummy!" Trump's campaign manager told the same story on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." For days, Trump's followers replied to his posts with demeaning, often sexually charged insults aimed at Jacobus, including several with altered, vulgar photographs of her face.
(continued) This week, Trump sent out a menacing message on Twitter about the Ricketts family, a wealthy clan of Republican political donors, after it was reported that Marlene Ricketts donated $3 million to a group opposed to Trump's candidacy. "They better be careful," Trump wrote of the family, "they have a lot to hide!" "It's a little surreal when Donald Trump threatens your mom," Marlene Ricketts's son, Tom, later told reporters.

It is not just that Trump has a skill for zeroing in on an individual's soft spot and hammering at it. It is that he sets a tone of aggression against the person, and his supporters echo and amplify it. Jacobus sent a cease-and-desist letter to Trump and his top aide, citing electronic messages that showed the Trump campaign had courted her and not the other way around. "I have been trashed and ruined on Twitter," Jacobus says adding that Trump's lawyers had responded to her letter, but that they had not yet reached a resolution. "At what point does it cross the line into something that's defamatory and might be actionable?" says Parry Aftab, a lawyer who leads the Internet safety group WiredSafety. "At what point does it cross the line into encouraging violence against groups and individuals?"
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How Donald Trump Uses Twitter As a Weapon of Fear

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  • by iggymanz ( 596061 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @03:09PM (#51593089)

    since everyone makes fun of Trump's hair at least

    wusses

  • how to (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 26, 2016 @03:10PM (#51593097)
    Mod articles as trolls?
  • by jfdavis668 ( 1414919 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @03:13PM (#51593123)
    The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather of that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections.
    • Left off - quote by Lord Acton
    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather of that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections.

      Which of course doesn't apply here. Twitter isn't a democracy, it's a kakocracy.

      • If he wins the election it's democracy.
        • by hey! ( 33014 )

          No, if he wins the election it doesn't change the nature of Twitter one bit. It's not like winning rewrites reality and turns falsehood into truth.

    • by tnk1 ( 899206 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @03:59PM (#51593563)

      And that is why democracy is a good method for providing legitimacy for government... but it's a shitty way to decide whether something is actually correct.

      Democracy is usually benign because most people want to be left alone and vote that way. We're not usually inclined to be belligerent, and even with the higher rate of wars that the US has fought, it pales in comparison to the past ideas of war as being desirable or even "fun" for the ruling classes.

      Unfortunately, there are times that you can rouse the majority (or large minority) to anger over something, and then you can control them with rhetoric and make them approve something wrong. And that is where democracy can fail, hard. A democracy is quite capable of electing its own dictator, and has done so more than once.

    • All will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect and to violate would be oppression. - Thomas Jefferson during his First Inaugural Address
  • In today's politics news:

    A blond raccoon was caught lying on the internet. Here's Bernie with the weather.

  • by mjm1231 ( 751545 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @03:15PM (#51593143)

    It's been my theory all along that Trump is trolling the Republican party. I am also not much surprised that this has been an effective method for gaining support from some of their followers.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I think he's Trolling all of us. It's like he watched "Bulworth" [google.com] and was inspired by it but decided to go Right Wing with it.

    • by Moridineas ( 213502 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @03:21PM (#51593215) Journal

      Seems a reasonable observation.

      My personal theory (take this with a big IMHO and cum grano salis) is that one big difference between Republicans and Democrats is that by and by, most Democrats tend to like their party. Most Republicans barely stomach their own party. Thus, it makes sense that if Trump is trolling the Republican party, that a lot of Republicans go right along trolling with him.

      • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @03:26PM (#51593269) Homepage

        Of course, there's the very real possibility that Trump is sincere in his brand of crazy, and that this resonates with a lot of people.

        You should be afraid of this possibility. Very very afraid.

        • A small part of me hopes that this is all a "Stephen Colbert" act. That he's pretending to be a crazy, ultra-right wing candidate but, once in office, he'll turn out to be an extremely liberal President. Of course, this chances of him being sincere are large enough that I wouldn't vote for him no matter who his opponent was.

      • by hey! ( 33014 )

        No, I think the situation is the same on both sides in the US, and it's probably going to be true of any two party system. The people who think the most about politics are the least satisfied with their party, but consider it the lesser of two evils.

      • Not a good sign (Score:3, Insightful)

        by SuperKendall ( 25149 )

        one big difference between Republicans and Democrats is that by and by, most Democrats tend to like their party. Most Republicans barely stomach their own party.

        In other words, Democrats by and large are delusional and Republicans by and large are realists.

  • Bad Headline (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RabidReindeer ( 2625839 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @03:15PM (#51593145)

    This is the Century of Fear. Everybody promotes fear. It's what they use to make us willingly offer up our dignity and our freedom.

    What's being described here is use of media not as a "weapon of fear", but as an all-out weapon of attack.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 26, 2016 @03:20PM (#51593193)

      This is the Century of Fear. Everybody promotes fear. It's what they use to make us willingly offer up our dignity and our freedom.

      What's being described here is use of media not as a "weapon of fear", but as an all-out weapon of attack.

      Hey, Not EVERYONE. Some of us watch cat videos.

    • by creimer ( 824291 )

      Everybody promotes fear.

      Some of us just ignore the fear to maintain productive lives.

  • Timing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @03:16PM (#51593157)

    Trump has made statements that have later been exposed as false or deceptive â" only after they have ricocheted across the Internet.

    Oh, NOW you complain about this. Is this not in fact the way the internet has worked since day one? Is this not in fact the very premise the entire news industry is based on?

    • Re:Timing (Score:5, Informative)

      by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @03:58PM (#51593561)

      The difference is that politicians in the past would stretch, spin, and skew the truth, but tried to stop short of outright breaking it. It was like a game. Who could come closest to breaking the truth without actually doing it? If you lost and were caught in a lie, you would retract your statement, make a mea culpa, and then try to find a new way to spin the truth so as not to break it again.

      Trump, on the other hand, doesn't shy away from lies and doesn't bother admitting he's wrong when caught making lies. According to Politifact [politifact.com], 20% of his statements are Pants on Fire lies. Another 39% are false. That's 59% of stuff coming out of Trump's mouth that are completely untrue. For comparison, Cruz has an 8% Pants on Fire rating and 31% false for a 39% total. Trump only scores 7% on True or Mostly-True statements. (Cruz is at 21%.)

      No other candidate does so poorly on this rating, but Trump simply doesn't care about truth at all. If he says that John Pershing shot 49 Muslim rebels with bullets covered in pig's blood and it kept terrorism at bay for 25 years, he gets his message across. Who cares if the story is a complete fabrication [politifact.com]? He got people to cheer him on and that's all that matters to Trump. He claims to be an outsider and not a politician but he's more of a politician than anyone else in the race.

      • Re:Timing (Score:5, Insightful)

        by hey! ( 33014 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @04:17PM (#51593733) Homepage Journal

        The difference is that politicians in the past would stretch, spin, and skew the truth, but tried to stop short of outright breaking it.

        No, that's not the difference at all. The difference is that the Internet allows us to step into a comforting echo chamber where things that would upset us are safely excluded; only the things we want to believe can get in. Back in the day if a politician were caught in a lie it would be damaging, so you avoided lies where you'd get caught. But today getting caught doesn't matter; the truth doesn't matter; what matters is which way reaction is breaking and you shape that with new information -- or misinformation, either works equally well so long as what you said a few days ago is old news. If your a politician old news can't penetrate the bubble you keep your followers in.

        In short,we live in the golden age of bullshit [wikipedia.org].

  • by Moridineas ( 213502 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @03:16PM (#51593161) Journal

    I was hoping that this kind of article wouldn't be showing up any more on the "new" Slashdot. I'm digging the new DICE-less Slashdot (and I even downloaded something from SourceForge for the first time in years!), and while this is obviously not a democracy, MHO is that if I want to read superficial and partisan social networking commentaries, I would seek them out (or not!) somewhere else--not on slashdot.

    • I disagree (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NoImNotNineVolt ( 832851 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @04:06PM (#51593625) Homepage
      While we're out here promoting our opinions on the subject of slashdot's Politics section, I'd like to throw my dissenting opinion into the ring.

      While you're certainly right that many stories under the Politics section indeed have little to nothing to do with news for nerds, oftentimes they still focus on stuff that matters. Many slashdotters come here not for the tech-focused stories [see also: rtfa], but to enjoy reasoned discussion with their nerdy brethren. See, for example, I cite a post [slashdot.org] I made the other day, about an admittedly controversial subject: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That subject is no better of a fit for the themes slashdot tends to focus on than is this Trump story, but check it out. That discussion went on for days while staying shockingly civil, levelheaded, objective (particularly the thread with Sun, for which I'm still working on a conciliatory reply). I don't know of many other forums for online discussion where this is even plausible, and that is the reason I encourage the new ownership to not abandon one of the few remaining outlets for such dialog.

      tl;dr: Politics on slashdot is awesome because it's still possible to have discussions rooted in reason. At least until the libertarians come out. (I kid, I kid... ... but seriously :P)
      • Thanks for the message. I do actually agree with you--over the years I have made many, many posts on all kinds of political articles on Slashdot. My objection isn't to political articles per se (though I do think the ratio could be shifted down a bit), but that this article in particular seemed totally vapid.

    • by swell ( 195815 ) <jabberwock@NOSPAm.poetic.com> on Friday February 26, 2016 @04:10PM (#51593667)

      Sorry, I like this kind of discussion at /.

      There are many places to go for talk about politics, religion, diet & health, etc. But each has its own polarization and is intended to satisfy those who agree with a particular viewpoint. Slashdot people tend to have certain opinions, but there are always some who differ and make the discussion interesting. Add to that a fairly high level of intelligence and rationality and we have a great place to explore any topic. Yes, this isn't http://www.well.com/ [well.com] , but it is as close as many of us will ever come.

    • To me this is like the end of Blazing Saddles where the large fight spills over into the studio cafeteria. Now there's nowhere to escape electioneering and the many minions pulling strings left and right.

  • by IWantMoreSpamPlease ( 571972 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @03:20PM (#51593197) Homepage Journal

    A pathological narcissist, a skilled liar, and possibly a sociopath.

    But an eloquent speaker who so far hasn't actually shown any concrete plans on how he plans to guide america.
    But very good at spewing mindless rhetoric that people seem to eat up, or at least enjoy watching the clown-car circus that the debates have devolved into.
    I fear a showdown between him and Clinton for the highest power in the land. Or in the words of Alien vs. Predator "No matter who wins, we lose"

    • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @03:42PM (#51593421) Journal

      But an eloquent speaker who so far hasn't actually shown any concrete plans on how he plans to guide america.

      In what universe is Donald Trump considered an "eloquent speaker"? Please provide some evidence, in the form of transcript or links to video, that shows Donald Trump speaking eloquently.

      FDR, Winston Churchill, even Malcolm X were eloquent speakers. Donald Trump is about as eloquent as an Andrew Dice Clay comedy bit.

      • Trump isn't eloquent, he's _entertaining_, in the reality TV," Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" sense of the word. Personally I don't find him all that entertaining either, but that's probably because he doesn't appeal to my pre-existing biases.
      • by Rakarra ( 112805 )

        Boy, Trump is not an eloquent speaker. I was watching the Republican debate last night, because God help me, I watch every debate in full, and Marco Rubio finally went for the jugular with his Emperor Has No Clothes characterization of Trump.

        RUBIO: ... We already mentioned that (inaudible) plan, I know what that is, but what else is part of your plan...
        TRUMP: ... You don't know much...
        RUBIO: ... So, you're only thing is to get rid of the lines around the states. What else is part of your healthcare plan...
        T

    • A pathological narcissist, a skilled liar, and possibly a sociopath.

      Ya know, you're right. After reading your post, I've had a realization that Trump is everything YOU say he is, and am switching my support to $YourCandidate.

      ...and this is one of the problems with the current elections, and previous ones. People think that name calling makes a difference, that saying something is "dumb" will make others change their views.

      It works if you're an insider, because other insiders are the ones who give you campaign money. If a politician says something slightly controversial, th

    • who so far hasn't actually shown any concrete plans

      This is the part everyone should be afraid of.

    • A pathological narcissist, a skilled liar, and possibly a sociopath.

      This perfectly applies to Hillary Clinton.

    • That is a question very much open for debate. [dilbert.com]

      You seem to think his rhetoric is mindless but not all of it is.

      Or in the words of Alien vs. Predator "No matter who wins, we lose"

      At least with Trump we may be farmed for sport instead of wholly harvested on the spot for our valuable chest cavities.

  • >> Donald Trump has used Twitter to badger and humiliate those who have dared cross him

    Er, I suppose, but when's the last time anyone actually read their Twitter feed? Or is this story about people dumb enough to read and react to what this guy says?

    • by Okian Warrior ( 537106 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @04:09PM (#51593659) Homepage Journal

      Or is this story about people dumb enough to read and react to what this guy says?

      Curiously, a lot of hay has been made about Trump's support from uneducated voters, largely from this poll [washingtonpost.com], page 36, which puts percent of supporters with "college degree" at 46%.

      The press, of course, is quick to point out that 46% is less than half, so they proclaim far and wide that his supporters are "mostly uneducated".

      What the press doesn't note, however, is that 70 % of Americans don't have a degree [politifact.com].

      Trumps supporters are more educated than the population average.

      Feel free to call us dumb, it helps us change our vote to $your candidate!

      (Oh, hey! Want to go out behind the trailer and shoot at beer cans with my .22?)

  • I would rather have a jerk trying to run the country than a puppet for Koch and friends, I'm really interesting to see if the RNC will let him actually represent them or if something will happen on the way to the convention. Now that the Koch brothers are pushing Rubio I expect him to get better coverage but I think that Trump would make for an interesting 4 years. I don't think that 4 years under Trump would be as bad as 4 years under the Koch brothers.

    ( http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/to [nbcnews.com]

    • I don't want a jerk -or- a corporate puppet. Sadly, the GOP doesn't appear to be all that concerned with finding someone that doesn't fit into at least one of those categories. I almost think they purposefully encourage candidates like Dr. Carson to apply to make the jerks and puppets look that much more appealing.

      When it comes to the position of the President of the United States, I don't believe a "lesser of two evils" strategy should ever be presented as an option.

    • by swb ( 14022 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @04:20PM (#51593751)

      I think in a lot of ways, US politics suffers from the tyranny of mediocrity.

      We have a system of checks and balances for a reason, and I think part of that reason is so we can take risks on political candidates who don't fall into the category of least worst or best-on-average.

      Trump has his buffoonish qualities and some crazy outbursts, like building the ridiculous wall, but I just don't get the sense that he's as bad as he's made out to be, and he does have some kind of compelling traits, like being one of the first candidates to speak out against H1-Bs and not needing to kowtow to party insiders or financial donors.

      As a system of positions, I like Sanders more but not exclusively and the other candidates turn me off in various ways. Rubio is paper thin in many of the same ways Obama was, Cruz is such a hard-core ideologue and has some positions I intimately detest, and both, for all their faux rebel status within the party prior to the primaries seem heavily invested in the existing system that benefits donors.

      Hillary may well be the best qualified as a political executive, but I also think she's too compliant to donors and too driven by personal ambition and hubris; she's just not trustable, and I don't like many of her positions, either.

      I say take a risk on crazy maybe and see what happens. I guess I just don't see our system capable of being ruined permanently by one guy.

  • Is this not considered libel? Is that legal now?
    • by Kagato ( 116051 )

      Sure. But you need the money to enforce your claim. He can keep a case like that in limbo for years.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by PopeRatzo ( 965947 )

      Is this not considered libel? Is that legal now?

      Effectively, libel doesn't exist in the US, especially for anyone in the public sphere.

      And this is a good thing, because how else would we have learned that Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer?

      http://www.miaminewtimes.com/n... [miaminewtimes.com]

  • by nrasch ( 303043 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @03:30PM (#51593301)

    So this is clearly a subjective, politically motivated posting. For example, we don't hear the other side of the story, etc. Love or hate Trump, I come to this site for news for nerds, not clap trap about the actions of some candidate. Frankly they all suck, and so holding one higher--or lower as the case may be--is vapid at best. Drop the slanted political "news" and get back to what we come to Slash Dot for.

    • Trump is WINNING. That scares the hell out of a lot of people, myself included. I kept assuming people would grow up and stop voting with their middle fingers, but apparently I overestimated the maturity of voters... or at least of registered Republican voters. On the other hand, if Trump actually does get the Republican nomination and we advance the Doomsday Clock to 1 millisecond to midnight, perhaps people will wake up and elect a Democrat to save themselves.
    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @04:05PM (#51593607) Homepage Journal

      Frankly they all suck, and so holding one higher--or lower as the case may be--is vapid at best. Drop the slanted political "news" and get back to what we come to Slash Dot for.

      Speaking of vapid... the idea that all the candidates are equivalent is the most empty and baseless statement I've heard in a long time. Or do you really think there's no difference between Trump and Kasich, or Sanders for that matter? Yes, there's always dreck, but this year's primaries offers more substantive and stark choices than any primary since I began voting in 1980.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 26, 2016 @03:35PM (#51593343)

    So what I'm getting is that Trump is using Twitter in the exact same way the SJWs use Twitter, but because it's Trump doing it, now it's bad.

    Mm-kay.

    The problem Twitter has is that it's become a platform for building outrage. People use retweets as a weapon to get their followers to harass people they disagree with. They'll post small, out of context quotes solely for the purpose of building rage. When it's SJWs or the likes of [only] Black Lives Matter doing it, that's fine, and Twitter is all about how cool activism is on their platform.

    When Trump does it, now it's the end of the world and we've got to stop those evil people by blocking them.

    Uh, no. Either ban both, or ban neither.

  • by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @03:42PM (#51593425)

    If only Twitter could appoint a committee with Anita Sarkeesian in charge to ban all those nasty conservatives who abuse their "free speech" to say things good liberals find offensive.

    Oh wait, they already have [nypost.com].

  • by Anonymous Coward

    And slashdot is trying again?
    http://tech.slashdot.org/story... [slashdot.org]
    (I notice the highly commented article is conspicuously absent from the "you might also like to read" list)

    "Oooh, he's such a meany.. he's so mean, like gamer gater mean... only Democrats can be so mean to Republicans on twitter so Trump should be bannnnnned"

    You're arguing for anti-bullying speech on one post while simultaneously posting articles calling for the heads of other "non-slashdot" approved persons on others using the exact same bullyin

  • by Alypius ( 3606369 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @03:49PM (#51593485)
    Meh. It's not like the IRS is auditing them or anything.
  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @03:52PM (#51593501)
    Ad hominem attacks instead of reasoned debate are considered NORMAL on every internet forum now. So much so, that I'm sure someone on /. will just call me names instead of citing trustworthy sources to refute my argument. Apparently, on the 'net, arguments are won by the biggest dick, with the most spare time to repeatedly post insults... yeah, that does sound like Trump, doesn't it?
  • by Tailhook ( 98486 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @04:13PM (#51593701)

    Just amazing. Any other season and the "Ricketts family" are a bunch of filthy 1%'ers exploiting their privilege to steal us all blind. Now suddenly their sympathetic figures we must commiserate with against teh ebil Trump. Any other time a Republican political strategist such as Cheri Jacobus would be pilloried as the enabler of planet wreckers that should be in a gulag with the rest of the racist climate deniers that pay her. Today, however, she is a "victim", because Trump tweeted about her.

    Sue him. Give him another target to beat on and another couple points in the polls.

  • by Mysticalfruit ( 533341 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @04:15PM (#51593721) Homepage Journal
    What I see with this election is the complete loss of civility. Nothing of substance is being said, it's simple mud slinging.
    Candidate X: "Mr. Trump, your idea is a bad one and here's why"
    Trump: "You're a dummy and your mother wished she'd aborted you with a coat hanger"
    Crowd: "*cheers*"
    Candidate X: "But what about your idea..."
    Trump: "Did I mention you're ugly too!"
    Candidate X: "I'm leaving... this is pointless"
    Trump: "Yup, there's goes a loser!"
    Crowd: "You're the best!!!"
  • Uppity folk (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Impy the Impiuos Imp ( 442658 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @05:03PM (#51594183) Journal

    "They better be careful," Trump wrote of the family, "they have a lot to hide!"

    It is wrong for him to do investigations of political opponents, and could be used to get the case thrown out.

    It was wrong for the IRS to be misused in this way under Obama.

    It was wrong for the IRS to be misused this way under Nixon.

    It was wrong, when S&P downgraded the US's bond rating, for Obama to announce a redoubled effort investigating them to see if there was anything they could tag them with as punishment.

    This is the purpose of warrant requirements, and the banning of general warrants, so those in power could not go fishing around for something illegal to tag uppity oppoonenta with.

    Boo Trump.

    Boo Obama.

    Boo Nixon.

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